This Thing Called Courage

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother?


From top: Echidna, Bumbleebee Bat, Aye-Aye, Kakapo, and the Solenodon)







(THERE IS A GREAT WEBSITE CALLED webecoist.com, and they have some wonderful, amazing even, articles. This one below is one of my recent favorites: the 20 strangest endangered species. Some of these are on the very edge of extinction-- it strikes me as criminal that we can so cavalierly wave adieu to species on this planet-- extinction is forever. Call me crazy, but I would much rather see our fellow endangered creatures 'bailed out' with huge infusions of cash and enlightenment, than Wall Street. From time to time I'll be posting more of these amazing creatures. (There are hundreds and thousands of others.) Here are a few for now.)

The ugly redheaded stepchildren of the animal kingdom don’t get much attention compared to the perennial endangered animal favorites like pandas, polar bears, and owls. These are the cute, majestic, and otherwise emblematic creatures of the endangered species list. But there are hundreds more animal species on our wondrous planet that are critically threatened and need both publicity and support. From bats the size of bees to poison-slinging mammals, lizards that don’t eat for a decade to seals with giant inflatable faces, here are the 25 strangest, most bizarre, unusual and important endangered species living on the “EDGE” (Evolutionarily Distinct & Globally Endangered).


1. Solenodon (beside and below map of Cuba)
No, it’s not an ROUS. The strange solenodon is a mammal found primarily in Cuba and Hispanola. Sure, it looks cute and manageable enough - sort of like an over-sized hedgehog. Too bad the solenodon injects rattlesnake-like venom through its teeth, the only mammal to do so. Easily annoyed, the solenodon bites at the drop of a banana leaf. Still, being both a carrion feeder and insectivore, it is a vital species in its ecosystem. It was thought to be extinct until scientists found a few still alive in 2003. It is in grave danger of extinction.
2. Kakapo (green, parrot-looking bird)
This is not only the rarest, but the strangest parrot in the world. Imagine a rather portly nocturnal bird that never flies, preferring to hike through hilly forest for miles every night. It weighs in as the heaviest parrot in the world at 8 pounds. Imagine this and you have the very real (but virtually extinct) kakapo. A resident of New Zealand, which is home to a number of rare birds, there are only 62 kakapos remaining on earth. (Bonus fact: New Zealand is full of unusual creatures. It originally had no native land mammals, so its many unique birds evolved in unusual ways - which unfortunately has made them very vulnerable to mammals that were brought in during European colonization.)

3. Aye Aye
Sharing something in common with bats, aye ayes are the only primates of the mammal world to rely on echolocation for hunting. The aye aye is a rather unusual cousin of us humans. It lives in spherical nests with a small hole for entry and exit. It uses its long, slender middle finger to tap on trees in order to find tasty insects - and it uses this same finger to scoop them out. Perhaps it is due to its unusually-large eyes and ears that this unique, sensitive primate is believed to be a demon or a bad luck omen. A native of Madagascar, it is often killed at first notice by the island’s superstitious residents.

4. Bumblebee Bat
Winning the cutest. bat. ever. award is the Bumblebee bat, which at its largest measures 1 inch. These tiny mammals hover like hummingbirds and like all bats prefer caves and love feasting on insects. They can easily perch on the tip of your thumb. This tiny bat dwells in Thailand and is considered one of the 12 most endangered species. There are fewer than 200 remaining.

5. Echidna (porcupine-resembling mammal)
The echidna is one of two egg-laying mammals in the world (the other is the famous duck-billed platypus). Though it looks a big hedgehog-like, this spiky creature is shy and non-confrontational. The echidna has a long, moist snout and an even longer tongue which it uses to feast on termites. It has no teeth, so it has to “chew” termites by crushing them between its tongue and mouth cavity. There are actually 4 species of echidna, and along with the platypus, they are the only monotremes.
And now some words to ponder, from those who were deemed 'Savages:'
"The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?
"Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.
"We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.
"The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each glossy reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water's murmur is the voice of my father's father.
"The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give the rivers the kindness that you would give any brother.
"If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.
"Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.
"This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
"One thing we know: our God is also your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.
"Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is to say goodbye to the swift pony and then hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.
"When the last red man has vanished with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?
"We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother's heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.
"As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you.
"One thing we know - there is only one God. No man, be he Red man or White man, can be apart. We ARE all brothers after all."
Chief Seattle, Suquamish










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